Migraine Care at Work: Helping Women, Helping Everyone

Many people still equate migraine with “bad headaches.” But in fact, migraine is a chronic, debilitating disease that afflicts 47 million Americans, 75% of whom are women. At a time when a pandemic-caused “shecession” cost 22.1 million women their jobs, employers should consider ways they can retain talent and encourage women to stay in the workforce.

New therapies – both prescription drugs and innovative medical devices – make migraine symptoms much more treatable today than ever before. But too many patients lack access to the full range of treatment options and necessary accommodations. This leaves them unnecessarily suffering. And that can impact their workplaces too.

Migraine’s Impact on Work

Direct and indirect costs of migraine disease on the American economy are estimated at $78 billion. That’s health costs, sick days and diminished productivity as migraine sometimes leaves workers less able to perform their work, even if they are well enough to be on the job. Two-thirds of employees with migraine disease continue to work during attacks.

Those who experience migraine disease, particularly women, miss out on opportunities for raises and promotions. But as some businesses have found out, making migraine care a priority can benefit their employees and their bottom line. 

Employers’ Investment in Migraine Care

Free and low-cost accommodations that help mitigate migraine triggers such as harsh lighting, strong odors and poor air quality can make a big difference. Migraine management programs are another option. They can also increase productivity and can create a supportive workplace environment.

Perhaps the most important measure, though, is ensuring access to treatment. By offering comprehensive health coverage that protects treatment options and minimizes red tape, employers increase their staff’s chances of being healthy and productive.

Several initiatives piloted in Europe tell the story. 

A program implemented by Spain’s postal service, for example, guaranteed access to preventive treatments for acute migraine attacks. The result? A 90% reduction in migraine-related productivity losses. In another example, a migraine treatment initiative at a European drug company increased productivity by nearly five times the cost of the program.

Overcoming Barriers

In contrast, people with migraine who live stateside may face limited access to treatments. 

Medication restrictions such as onerous prior authorization and step therapy save insurance companies money at the expense of employees’ productivity. Many insurers also fail to cover FDA-approved wearable or hand-held electric devices that prevent or treat migraine symptoms.

Business leaders and human resource managers are on the front lines of the fight against migraine disease. They can make migraine treatment coverage and migraine awareness a priority in their workplaces. It’s a strategy that can improve the overall health and morale of their workers – and the productivity of their businesses, too.

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